Workplace conflict
Workplace conflict is a specific type of conflict that occurs in workplaces. The conflicts that arise in workplaces may be shaped by the unique aspects of this environment, including the long hours many people spend at their workplace, the hierarchical structure of the organization, and the difficulties (e.g. financial consequences) that may be involved in switching to a different workplace. In this respect, workplaces share much in common with schools, especially pre-college educational institutions in which students are less autonomous.


According to Boston University
Boston University
Boston University is a private research university located in Boston, Massachusetts. With more than 4,000 faculty members and more than 31,000 students, Boston University is one of the largest private universities in the United States and one of Boston's largest employers...

 FSAO, "Causes for workplace conflict can be personality or style differences and personal problems such as substance abuse, childcare issues, and family problems. Organizational factors such as leadership, management, budget, and disagreement about core values can also contribute." University of Colorado–Boulder cites as primary causes of workplace conflict poor communication, different values, differing interests, scarce resources, personality clashes, and poor performance.

The issue of "personality clashes" is controversial. According to the Australian government, the two types of workplace conflicts are "when people's ideas, decisions or actions relating directly to the job are in opposition, or when two people just don't get along." Turner and Weed argue, "In a conflict situation, don’t ask ‘who’, ask ‘what’ and ‘why’. Managers should avoid blaming interpersonal conflicts on “personality clashes”. Such a tactic is an excuse to avoid addressing the real causes of conflict, and the department’s performance will suffer as a result. Managers must be able to recognize the signs of conflict behaviors and deal with the conflict in a forthright fashion. Approaching conflicts as opportunities to improve departmental policies and operations rather as ailments to be eradicated or ignored will result in a more productive work force and greater departmental efficiency."

Office romances can be a cause of workplace conflict. 81 percent of human resource professionals and 76 percent of executives said workplace romances are dangerous because they can lead to conflict within the organization. Public displays of affection can make co-workers uncomfortable and accusations of favoritism may occur, especially if it is a supervisor-subordinate relationship. If the relationship goes awry, one party may seek to exact revenge on the other.

Passive aggressive behavior is a common response from workers and managers which is particularly noxious to team unity and productivity. In workers, it can lead to sabotage of projects and the creation of a hostile environment. In managers, it can end up stifling teams creativity. De Angelis says "It would actually make perfect sense that those promoted to leadership positions might often be those who on the surface appear to be agreeable, diplomatic and supportive, yet who are actually dishonest, backstabbing saboteurs behind the scenes."
In brief, to respond to this kind of hostile behavior, people need to control performance expectations, parcel out important tasks so there are several responsible people involved, and re-check frequently to see how much delay the passive aggressive worker can generate before the team leader stops him."


Unresolved conflict in the workplace has been linked to miscommunication resulting from confusion or refusal to cooperate, quality problems, missed deadlines or delays, increased stress among employees, reduced creative collaboration and team problem solving, disruption to work flow, decreased customer satisfaction, distrust, split camps, and gossip.


Constantino helps organizations design their own, ad hoc conflict management
Conflict management
Conflict management involves implementing strategies to limit the negative aspects of conflict and to increase the positive aspects of conflict at a level equal to or higher than where the conflict is taking place. Furthermore, the aim of conflict management is to enhance learning and group outcomes...

Tosi, Rizzo, and Caroll suggested that improving organizational practices could help resolve conflicts, including establishing superordinate goals
Superordinate goals
Superordinate goals, in psychology, are goals that are achieved by the contribution and co-operation of two or more people, with individual goals that are normally in opposition to each other, working together....

, reducing vagueness, minimizing authority- and domain-related disputes, improving policies, procedures and rules, re-apportioning existing resources or adding new, altering communications, movement of personnel, and changing reward systems.
Most large organizations have a human resources
Human resources
Human resources is a term used to describe the individuals who make up the workforce of an organization, although it is also applied in labor economics to, for example, business sectors or even whole nations...

 department, whose tasks include providing confidential advice to internal "customers" in relation to problems at work. This could be seen as less risky than asking one's manager for help. HR departments may also provide an impartial person who can mediate disputes and provide an objective point of view. Another tool in the conflict resolution in organizations resources box is the introduction of the Ombudsman figure, at the organizational level; charged with surveying common causes of conflict and suggesting structural improvements to address them.

See also

  • Conflict Management
    Conflict management
    Conflict management involves implementing strategies to limit the negative aspects of conflict and to increase the positive aspects of conflict at a level equal to or higher than where the conflict is taking place. Furthermore, the aim of conflict management is to enhance learning and group outcomes...

  • Group conflict
    Group conflict
    Group conflict, or hostilities between different groups, is a pervasive feature common to all levels of social organization .. Although group conflict is one of the most complex phenomena studied by social scientists, the history of the human race evidences a series of group-level conflicts that...

  • Love contract
    Love contract
    A love contract is a legal contract that is meant to limit the liability of an employer whose employees are romantically involved. An employer may choose to require a love contract when a romantic relationship within the company becomes known, in order to indemnify the company in case the...

  • Occupational health psychology
    Occupational health psychology
    Occupational health psychology emerged out of two distinct applied disciplines within psychology, health psychology and industrial/organizational psychology, and occupational health. OHP is concerned with the psychosocial characteristics of workplaces that contribute to the development of...

  • Organizational conflict
    Organizational conflict
    Organizational conflict is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests between people working together. Conflict takes many forms in organizations. There is the inevitable clash between formal authority and power and those individuals and groups...

  • Workplace aggression
    Workplace aggression
    Workplace aggression is a specific type of aggression, which occurs in the workplace. Workplace aggression can include a wide range of behaviors, ranging from verbal acts to physical attacks .-Definition:...

  • Workplace bullying
    Workplace bullying
    Workplace bullying, like childhood bullying, is the tendency of individuals or groups to use persistent aggressive or unreasonable behaviour against a co-worker or subordinate. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation...

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